With the stakes raised, it was Rice who upped the ante early Saturday afternoon as they scored yet another victory over nemesis St. Raymond's to win the New York Diocesan title before a packed house at Mount St. Michael in the Bronx.
The NYCHoops #2 Raiders got a balanced scoring effort with four players contributing 14 or more points to beat the #3 Ravens for the third time this season, 78-59. St. Ray's never looked comfortable as Rice applied intense defensive pressure and took advantage of a lax Ravens perimeter defense en route to dropping 10 3-pointers for the game. In a game that got top billing, Saturday's bout didn't quite match the hype.
"This was very important," Rice junior guard Durand Scott said of the victory. "We came out here with heart and pride. It makes a statement to other teams."
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A hard fought back and forth first period started slowly due to taut defense, but Rice began to open it up in the last two minutes.
6'2" junior guard Charles Fenner provided a nice spark off the bench with a great steal and assist to Drexel bound senior Chris Fouch, who converted a three-point play after being fouled on a tough lay-up to give Rice a 13-12 lead with 28 seconds left in the period. The Raiders would lead the rest of the way.
Rice turned up their trademark defensive pressure to stifle St. Ray's in the second period, getting easy lay-ups and open 3-pointers in transition. A 12-2 Rice run to begin the second was book ended by a 10-4 run to end it as the Raiders completely dominated the Ravens. Rice also thoroughly out rebound St. Ray's as Scott and 6'7" do-everything swingman Dorvell Carter controlled the glass and kept the Ravens from getting second chance opportunities.
Carter showed his athletic ability just before the half as he recovered a ball that UConn commit Kemba Walker had lost and nailed a baseline jumper in traffic at the buzzer. The bucket deflated St. Ray's, while seeming to give Rice all the momentum and a 39-25 half-time lead.
The Ravens, however, would have something to say in the third. Down but not out, St. Ray's came out a reenergized unit in the second half. The High scoring duo of senior point guard Darryl Bryant, a West Virginia commit, and junior two guard Omari Lawrence would come out sharp and ignite St. Ray's on a 9-2 run in the first two minutes of the period. The Ravens would pull to within five with just under 4:00 in the third as amped up 6'6" junior forward Kevin Parrom completed a three-point play after getting fouled on a made lay-up over three Rice defenders. Lawrence dazzled the crowd with multiple tough mid-range jumpers, scoring eight of his 10 points in the period.
Rice always had an answer, though, as St. Rays couldn't get closer than five. Their deadly 3-point shooting kept the Ravens at bay. Back to back 3's by Fouch and senior guard Jeff Harris pushed the lead back to nine with just over 2:07 in the third. A technical foul on Walker with five seconds in period would allow St. Ray's to make it 56-50 on two Bryant free throws. However, Bryant would be unable to capitalize at the line just moments later as he missed the front end of a one-in-one that could have cut it to four.
Rice would never look back in the last period. A Walker step back 3-pointer at the top of the key got the Raiders rolling in the fourth. As things got a little testy with some extra pushing and shoving, Carter was at his best cleaning up the offensive boards for a couple of nice put backs. St. Ray's couldn't buy a basket at the other end, partially due to some outstanding defense by Scott on both Lawrence and Bryant. Parrom would score the Ravens last points on a 3-pointer with 3:35 to play.
The Raiders were exceptional from the foul line down the stretch, something that had been a weakness for them during the regular season. They converted on 12-of-14 free throws in the second half and 18-of-22 for the game. Scott led all scores with 18. Fouch had 16 for Rice, with Walker and Carter both tallying 14. Parrom, who had been quiet in the two previous games against Rice, led St. Ray's with 15 and had a good rebounding game. Bryant finished with 14. Rice has now won seven straight versus St. Ray's.
"I don't think we have them in a corner," Carter said about Rice's streak over Ray's. He points out that they know each other well, with many players competing on the same New York Gauchos summer team. "We see them all the time. We just don't want to lose to them. We hate losing to them."
Scott shrugged off the Raiders current dominance and is looking forward to next weeks playoffs.
"It's a rival game," he said. "They're going to come out hard and ready to play us. It's not like they're going to fall over next year."
Rice goes into the intersectional playoffs next week the number one seed, drawing Xaverian first. St. Ray's will have a tough first game against Christ the King.
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